Review: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

Review: 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'

THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE

Genre: Action Drama

Rating: PG-13

Running Time: 146 mins.

Premise: In the wake of their recent victory, Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) are sent on a Victory Tour of the 12 Districts.  But when their popularity begins to spark rebellion, evil President Snow (Donald Sutherland) devises a third "Quarter Quell" version of the Hunger Games, where prior victors are forced to compete again.

Behind-the-Scenes: Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, Water for Elephants) takes over directing duties from Gary Ross.  He'll also be directing the final installment, Mockingjay, which will be split into two films.  Based on the bestseller by Suzanne Collins.

The Good: Emboldened by the huge success of the first Hunger Games, the cast and crew show great confidence and command of their craft in this sequel.  The movie knows its audience and what it's here to do.  Everything is bigger.  The budget, the stakes, the performances (I didn't think Stanley Tucci could get any more hilariously hammy, but he does here), the costumes (by Trish Summerville, which are truly spectacular), the action - all are designed to please fans of the first and they do.  The new cast members make a good impression, with the standout being Jena Malone as Johanna Mason.  There's a decent amount of humor, and Jennifer Lawrence continues to effortlessly compel as Katniss, even if her character is required to cry and shriek a lot more this time around.

The Bad: It's basically the same story as the first, told again with more emphasis on the revolution.  There's an inescapable seen-it-all-before vibe that plagues the movie as it hits familiar beats.  Gale (Liam Hemsworth) is once again given short shrift, making the love triangle between him, Katniss and Peeta somewhat non-existent.  The movie sets up the notion of the "Quarter Quell" with all these impressive victors, but never does anything special with them once the Hunger Games begin.  The big action sequence involves...uh, baboons?

Should You See It?: Yes. If you're a fan of The Hunger Games, you'll like this installment.  It's not as good as it needs to be, or wants to be, but it's good enough.  It does the trick.

Star Rating: *** out of 5 stars.

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